Rockford Rescue Mission on the front lines of battling war on homelessness

Online Staff Report

A new survey of rescue missions across North America indicates that among the homeless individuals served by rescue missions, more than one in three adults who seek help are facing homelessness for the first time. At Rockford Rescue Mission, homelessness is a new experience for 36 percent of the people it is presently serving.

These results were noted in the 25th annual Snapshot Survey from the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), which provides a one-day count of those being served by rescue missions. The October 2014 survey, taken at 135 missions throughout North America, tabulated responses from more than 20,000 individuals served. Rockford Rescue Mission is a member of AGRM.

We’re thankful to have the kind of community support that allows us to reach a wide range of people who are affected by homelessness and hunger,” said Sherry Pitney, executive director of Rockford Rescue Mission. “Especially during the holidays, the practical help of food, clothing, and a hot holiday meal reminds our neighbors in need that they are not alone. That reminder is especially important for families and individuals who are dealing with the challenges of being homeless for the first time.”

AGRM President John Ashmen said: “When the general public pictures homelessness. The image is usually of individuals who have spent a lifetime fighting the undertow of addiction. Such folks definitely are part of the scene, but we have to remember that the economy is still a huge factor. Many of the people visiting a rescue mission today never knew a month ago that they would be looking for lodging or other assistance in such a place.

Rescue missions will continue to have an important role in meeting the challenges of the first-time homeless,” Ashmen added. “Missions offer individual attention that can prevent these individuals and families from becoming chronically homeless, and can help them find options to stabilize their lives — including emergency assistance, health care, job and life-skills training — which is tangible help. Missions also provide spiritual support, which is long-term hope. That’s why rescue missions are so unique in these settings and perhaps why 81 percent of those surveyed say they prefer to seek help from an agency that has a spiritual emphasis.”

This year’s Snapshot Survey also provided some other interesting results among the more than 20,000 people responding. One finding that might run against a stereotype often held by those outside the homeless community is the degree of education of those who are homeless. Of the adults surveyed, 69 percent have a high school diploma or above. In fact, 21 percent have some college education.

Additionally, 84 percent of those surveyed say they visit the mission every day. In other words, the local rescue mission is their daily source of services for sustainability. At Rockford Rescue Mission 84 percent of those assisted come every day.

Pitney noted, “Day in and day out, it is our privilege to offer a variety of ways to help those who come to us.”

The Mission’s purpose is to Rescue, Recover and Restore homeless men, women and children in the Rockford-area community. Rescue is provided at Crisis Centers through nutritious meals and safe shelter for guests. Recovery is provided in residential recovery programs for men and women in need of lifestyle changes, substance abuse treatment and other life-controlling issues. The Mission helps restore individuals through its Education Center and Vocational Training programs, which prepare them to become productive members of our community.

We consider ourselves blessed to be in this community, where time and again neighbors make the effort to give of their time and resources to those we serve,” Pitney said.

Visit for a statistical comparison of the overall survey findings from the last four years.

Posted Nov. 20, 2014

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